Monday, February 01, 2010

California - Easy Ride

When I open my eyes, I usually see...


This thing is huge.

But that was then, and this is now. This evening I'm cozied up on the couch, laptop warming my lap, bowl of yogurt (well, it's empty now) next to me.

Today was one of those classic ProCycling Manager "Long Easy Training Ride". Earlier someone asked me what was on the schedule for the week. I want to go check out Palomar again, but when it's not raining up there. That pushes any attempt back to Thursday, since it'll be wet before and after that.

In ProCycling Manager, when you schedule a training camp, you can select different types of rides. Typically they're things like "5 hours easy" or "6 hours moderate" or "3 hours hard". I paraphrase, but you get the gist.

After each day of a training camp, you get reports from the riders out there. Unfortunately, you usually only hear about the negatives. If you work the riders too hard, they complain vociferously, and, like a good team director, I ease back the workload for the next day.

Tuesday was that kind of a day, a long easy day, the kind where I just "tickle the pedals over".

With that in mind we set out to meet up with some friends, eat, chat, and ride. Once again I used Belgium Leg Warmers - Atomic Balm and shorts - with a plethora of layers up top. A vest worked well to chase the chill.

On the way I scampered off after a truck, a decent jump but definitely missing some of the top end I would liked to have seen. Of course, it's just the first day of February, so it's not like it's too late to work on it.

The sight at the coffee shop pleased me.

The "parking lot" in front of the coffee place. Can you spot the Tsunami?

Incredibly enough there was another (smaller) batch of bikes to the left, but I couldn't get a good picture without losing my place in line - and I was in the doorway to the place while in my spot.

Our ride companions, Bob and Jean, found us and pointed to their table outside. Once we got our food, we sat down at the table, a picnic umbrella overhead. I'd never met either before so it was nice to have a pleasant chat with them. Former East Coasters, I couldn't regale them with impressive stories like "Oh, it was six degrees back at home. Fahrenheit."

We stayed long enough to gobble down a nice egg sandwich on a bagel. I saw a piece of debris fall from the sky and looked up. Black birds, medium size, lined the roofline.

Bob noticed me looking. "They're waiting patiently for us to leave," Bob commented.

Apparently they wait quite openly, even tapping up and down the table umbrellas.

After the nice brunch, we set off once again.

We rolled along parallel to the PCH, and Bob directed us to a little hill he wanted to record on his Garmin.

"It looks to be at least 10%. It's pretty steep. I want to check it out with the Garmin."

I agreed, looking over at the short (all of 40-50 meters long) but very steep climb.

We turned into it, no momentum, and I immediately had to think about self preservation. All thoughts of being nice and riding next to my new friends kind of went out the window. Julie, who had led us into the hill, did the same thing, and rode away up the short hill.

I followed. The effort seemed high, but this was where my lower weight typically betrayed my expectations. Instead of an easy cruise up hills, as my lower weight ought to give me, I end up struggling just as much as when I weighed 20-odd more pounds.

Or so it seems.

10% means not quite a 39x23, so I used a slightly bigger gear, maybe a 39x19. Bob rolled up the hill behind me, equipped with a gear that allowed him to climb the hill at a slightly lower pace.

I did the short climb comfortable with my "moderately high" effort. I looked down at the pavement, looked up at the grade, trying to burn into my memory what a 10% grade looks like. I thought about Palomar's 7%-8% grades, and thought that, "Yeah, that makes sense, when I struggled and weaved last year, because I had ride a few hours to get to that part of Palomar."

That made me think of the Tour of California, then of pro racing in general. I found myself thinking about some of the recent Giro DVDs I watched where they were climbing 18% and 20% grades. They looked like they were struggling, but then again, they had already raced a hundred miles or something. And they were climbing steep climbs, not one like this. This was just 10%.


Just as I got to the top, all of 20 or 30 seconds later, Bob cried out in triumph.

"19%! This hill is 19%!"

Then, immediately, he turned to his wife, struggling gamely behind him.


I was busy absorbing this new information. 19%?! Not 10%? I hit the hill expecting a 10% grade, pedaled like it was a 10% grade, climbed it like it was a 10% grade, and, to me, it felt like a 10% grade.

Not a 19% one.

Better yet, upon review at home base, I saw that I registered at most a 400 watt effort on that hill. I'd consider that hill as steep as the climb out of the house back at home, and I regularly hold 600-800 watts to get out onto the road.

To be able to do the same climb at 400 watts? That's incredible.

Over the last few days I've noticed that my lack of weight has made a big difference on climbs. The difference feels less dramatic than I expected. It's more like when fitness creeps up on me. When I get fit and I'm riding, it doesn't feel any different. I get tired, I get sore, and it feels just like another less-fit day.

But then I ask my body to make just one more effort, just one more surge. And it responds, magnificently.

For the next two hours of surges.

I'm not necessarily fit right now, so this endless surge thing isn't what I've experienced. But my lower weight has made climbing... less hurtful. It's not that I can fly up hills. I can't, at least right now, because I find it next to impossible to attack anything without blowing up right away.

But I can roll gears much higher than normal, without climbing into the heart rate red zone.

With that in mind, I'll be going out looking to test these "sensations". Tuesday may be a longer day, with my hosts both out for the day. Wednesday, maybe a bit shorter.

Then Thursday, the only day forecast with sun on Palomar this week, I may have to go test my climbing sensations on a slightly longer, much less steep climb.

(Oh, by the way, the Tsunami is behind the yellow Cannondale.)

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